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Three Pieces of Diana Nyad Wisdom for Nonprofits

September 5, 2013

When a 64-year old person swims 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, it’s pretty amazing. Everyone is celebrating.

Here are a few things from Diana Nyad’s recent journey that provide food for thought if you work, volunteer or give in the third sector.

  1. The success of someone else can be just as powerful as your own.
    We all feel good for Diana Nyad—great for her. Her accomplishment feels like “one for the human race,” right?  In turn, it feels good to be proud of her accomplishment.

    We can do more of that here. Celebrating the successes of other local organizations builds our community.

    Share other organizations’ positive status updates on Facebook. Call up your colleagues after they were featured in a news story or after they hosted a successful special event. Be genuinely happy for their “win.” Believe me, it helps all of us. We may “compete” for donors, volunteers, talent, attention with our messaging, but we work and volunteer in this sector because we care about a better world.

  2. Never underestimate the importance of recognizing your team.
    One of the first things Diana said when she got out of the water was that her sport is not a solitary one, though it appears to be. A team of people helped to prepare her, guide her, encourage her. And so it is in our world.

    We may see many of the same faces in the society columns and featured in the spotlight. But the best leaders sincerely recognize their team in ways that are personally meaningful. Everyone from board members to donors, volunteers, receptionists, caseworkers are more likely to stay with organizations through thick and thin when they feel appreciated by the leader.

  3. Unless you’re really lucky, there will be setbacks–personally and organizationally.
    Diana’s setbacks were pretty crazy–jellyfish, asthma, and dealing with unpredictable seas (for hours and hours). And by the way, she had tried this before. Four times before.

    I’m sure Diana had her fair share of local acquaintances who chatted behind her insisting that she could never do it. But this woman has determination.

    Even the most successful nonprofits have big moments when they realize a program did not meet the projected outcome. The fundraising event didn’t make the goal. Budget cuts impacted possibilities and long-standing offerings. Etc.

    They adjust their strategies, and although difficult, they view setbacks as temporary and keep going.

I am always grateful to incredible people like Diana Nyad who are all about endurance. The small, simple victories are worth celebrating too, but we’re in this work for the long haul.

How do you recognize your team, communicate setbacks to your board or stakeholders in a positive and affirming way, and share in the successes of others?

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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One Response to “Three Pieces of Diana Nyad Wisdom for Nonprofits”

  1. Lisa Ramirez Says:

    As always, very insightful and motivating! Thx Susie!


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